Parents are refusing the life-saving Vitamin K injection for newborn babies in new anti-science trend

Rebekah Robinson

 

The anti-vaccine and anti-science movements impact more than just childhood vaccines. Pediatricians are reporting that mothers are rejecting the routine vitamin K injection for their babies after giving birth, convinced by anti-science propaganda that it’s harmful to their health, and sometimes believing that it’s a form of vaccination.  

Doctors provide vitamin K injections to newborns as a means of life-saving blood clotting to stop bleeding, which could lead to brain damage and death.

Recently, a Boston pediatrician, Dr. Michael O’Brien, discussed his experience working in a newborn nursery at his hospital. After months working there, he said, he had “met many parents either hesitant about giving their newborn vitamin K, and a few refusing it altogether.”

He wrote a thread on the trend he was seeing amongst parents and caregivers expressing concern about providing their newborns with the injection to prevent a condition known as Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB). 

So, where does this hesitation come from? Something we have been tracking and has become all too common is medical misinformation and distrust of medical professionals. Longstanding issues before the pandemic have continued to be exacerbated by anti-science conversations in the media and among public officials. 

This refusal of vitamin K isn’t new, but earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned that there had been a recent increase. The AAP also cited a study that found a strong association between parents that refused vitamin K at birth and the hepatitis B vaccine. 

Dr. Alyssa Burgart, board-certified pediatric anesthesiologist and bioethicist, told me, “Anti-vaccine sentiment and vaccine skepticism goes hand-in-hand with people who refuse vitamin K.”

She shared that during her medical education, the “natural” health trends in places like California had parents wading through masses of medical misinformation. It has moved beyond small localities and impacted healthcare providers on a national scale. 

“Pediatric practices nationally are experiencing a collective, new and growing ‘strained’ relationship with many families primarily driven by the ‘Anti-Vaccine Industry,'” Dr. Todd Wolynn, a pediatrician committed to combating medical misinformation on social media, told me. “In my opinion,” he added, “this has resulted in most pediatric practices experiencing new and recurrent unease and outright hostility,” especially when it comes to vaccinations and other public health measures.

We see this strained relationship between the public, pediatricians, and the anti-vaccine industry play out with current health crises like tackling monkeypox ahead of going back to school season, the rise of polio in certain parts of the United States, and of course, our ongoing battle with covid. 

Doctors continue to take to their social media platforms to meet those looking for answers where they are and dispel medical misinformation, even if it is one tweet at a time.

IN GLOBAL NEWS

Along with much of Europe, the Czech Republic has suffered devastating wildfires and drought this summer. The country is now facing a reckoning — it has some of the EU’s worst climate policies, and like the wildfires, populist climate skepticism is also out of control. For a moment, it looked like the fires might trigger even the most climate-skeptic politicians to change their mind — the famously conservative Prime Minister, Petr Fiala, a big opponent of the EU’s climate agenda, admitted that the link between the fires and global warming can’t be overlooked. But it’s a blip in the country’s otherwise lack of enthusiasm for supporting climate change policy or the transition to clean energy. The Czech Republic is now holding the rotating EU presidency — which is bringing extra attention to the fact that they are generally reticent on climate change. 

Where did the pandemic start? Anywhere but China, claim papers by Chinese scientists forced to toe the Communist Party line. The official narrative is now that the pandemic didn’t start anywhere within China’s borders — and China is churning out “research” to make that case scientifically. I’ve written about the academic pressures influencing the Chinese scientific paper industry in the past. Overworked doctors and scientists, pushed to produce academic research, can end up resorting to paying so-called “paper-mills” to produce peer-reviewed papers on their behalf, using cloned results that can be found across hundreds — sometimes thousands — of similar research papers. Foreign researchers are not allowed into the country to conduct independent investigations into the virus’s origins, either.

Two Hungarian meteorologists have been fired by the government after they wrongly forecast bad weather, prompting a major patriotic fireworks display to be canceled. The fireworks extravaganza, in celebration of the “thousand year old Hungarian state,” was billed as one of the most lavish in Europe and was due to take place over the weekend. It was then canceled after the head of the country’s forecasting service, Kornelia Radics, along with her deputy, anticipated thunderstorms and strong winds. When their forecast turned out to be wrong, they were summarily dismissed, for “giving misleading information about the extent of the bad weather,” according to Hungarian media. “They couldn’t produce the desired weather, they were fired. No, this is not a dictatorship in Central Asia; this is the Hungary of Fidesz,” Andras Fekete-Gyor of the opposition Momentum Movement said on Facebook, referring to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling party. The display will now take place this weekend.

WHAT WE’RE READING 

I’ve been following Economist finance journalist Don Weiland’s Twitter for his chilling and often absurd accounts of traveling in China and coming face-to-face with its grueling covid policies. He’s been beset with phone calls from the police asking if he’s ever had covid, been forced to scan his permissions code upon entry to every service (food, taxi, hospital, even entering his own home). On arrival in Shanghai, he was issued a dense, ten-page list — covered front and back with solid text — of every single high and medium risk area in the country, which he had to sign attesting he hasn’t visited any. “The dangers of techno-authoritarianism are on full display,” he writes of the zero-Covid system. “When we try to total up the cost of China’s zero-Covid machine I think it’s safe to say we’re undercounting.”

This newsletter is curated by Coda’s senior reporter Isobel Cockerell. Katia Patin contributed to this edition.

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